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Poll: Was MetroLink a Good Investment?

July 31, 2011 Public Transit, STL Region, Sunday Poll, Transportation 85 Comments
ABOVE: The elevator tower at the Convention Center MetroLink station, 6th & Washington Ave.

Eighteen years ago today St. Louis’ initial light rail line, MetroLink, opened for service:

Construction on the initial MetroLink alignment from Lambert-St. Louis International Airport to the 5th & Missouri station in East St. Louis began in 1990. The portion between North Hanley and 5th & Missouri stations opened in July 31, 1993, and the line was extended westward to Lambert Airport Main station in 1994. At that time another station, East Riverfront, was opened in East St. Louis. Four years later, in 1998, the Lambert Airport East station was added. The capital cost to build the initial phase of MetroLink was $465 million. Of that amount, $348 million was supplied by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

MetroLink exceeded pre-opening ridership estimates, but the system has expanded slowly. Construction on proposed extensions has been delayed by the increasing scarcity of FTA funds. As time has passed, an ever-greater share of the costs has been borne by state and local governments. The most recent work has been entirely funded by local dollars. (Wikipedia)

The fact we had the Eads Bridge, existing tunnels under downtown, and unused railroad right-of-way, created the needed local match to get federal funding the initial project.

Since today is the 18th anniversary I thought I’d do the weekly poll question about MetroLink: was it a good investment?

– Steve Patterson

 

Currently there are "85 comments" on this Article:

  1. Yes, without a doubt.  If St. Louis (and the region) want to continue moving forward, a usable public transportation system is essential.  

    Unfortunately, after 18 years, you’d think Metro would have caught on.  I don’t feel like it has.  We keep making excuses on why we don’t ride it.  I am not pointing a finger – I’m guilty too.  In fact recently I used metro and just kicked myself, “hey, they’re doing a pretty good job here – this is even more user-friendly than last time I rode.”  

     
  2. Yes, without a doubt.  If St. Louis (and the region) want to continue moving forward, a usable public transportation system is essential.  

    Unfortunately, after 18 years, you’d think Metro would have caught on.  I don’t feel like it has.  We keep making excuses on why we don’t ride it.  I am not pointing a finger – I’m guilty too.  In fact recently I used metro and just kicked myself, “hey, they’re doing a pretty good job here – this is even more user-friendly than last time I rode.”  

     
    • the biggest problem with metrolink is that it’s just not a good set of public transportation. we don’t ride it because it’s expensive(far more so than many other cities primary modes of public transportation) crowded, and the waits are ridiculous, with no proper areas for sitting, and little shade.

       
  3. Carondelet Dude says:

    If Metrolink really wants catch up on progress it needs to expand to a North and South route.  I can only imagine how awesome it would be to hop on in Carondelet at Loughborough and I-55 and be able to take that to the Delmar loop instead of a long winding drive.  All the streets in South City flow towards downtown.  Metrolink if it followed the proposed route of the railline that goes through the southside could help get to Clayton/the Loop and vice versa.  A north route could be part of the infrastructure that North City could build on.

     
  4. Carondelet Dude says:

    If Metrolink really wants catch up on progress it needs to expand to a North and South route.  I can only imagine how awesome it would be to hop on in Carondelet at Loughborough and I-55 and be able to take that to the Delmar loop instead of a long winding drive.  All the streets in South City flow towards downtown.  Metrolink if it followed the proposed route of the railline that goes through the southside could help get to Clayton/the Loop and vice versa.  A north route could be part of the infrastructure that North City could build on.

     
    • Douglas Duckworth says:

      Light rail in St. Louis doesn’t have a record of promoting economic development in poor areas. Why would it be different on the North Side?

       
      • Adam says:

        Wait… they don’t have a record because they haven’t yet built lines to serve the poor areas (i.e. north and parts of south), so why would it be different if they built a line to serve the poor areas? Um… it’s different because it would be the exact opposite of what they haven’t yet done.

         
        • JZ71 says:

          Wellston is not poor?!

          Light rail is not a silver bullet when it comes to development, it’s one part of a larger equation.  Light rail is, first and foremost, a part of a larger transportation system.

           
          • metrolink is not truly light rail either, especially along the red line in north county.

            tell me what metro has in common with this example of true light rail in portland? other than being a train on a rail, nothing really.
            http://media.247sports.com/Uploads/Boards/661/6661/53163.jpg

            if metrolink really wants to spur development it needs to move on streets. right now it is more light a train, commuter or long distance whatever (especially going through the golf course and cemetery in north county, feels like a cross country trip). To spur development, needs to be more like a streetcar. Especially feel this where from Civic Center to Union Station, the metro trench combined cuts segments the area leaving a desert of sidewalk and parking lots in front of Scottrade.

             
          • JZ71 says:

            Actually, both systems are light rail – light rail refers to the vehicles and the rail they use, which is lighter than the rail freight rails use (and heavier than streetcars’).  The only difference between Portland and here is that we use high-floor vehicles while they use low-floor ones.  How the system is designed is a separate issue.  Light rail can operate on both city streets and on dedicated rights-of-way.  Light rail can also operate multiple-vehicle consists.  St. Louis is limited to the current two-vehicle consists solely because of the existing platform lengths at our stations, especially downtown.  Other properties (San Diego and Denver, to name two) operate consists of up to four vehicles, which gets to be problematic on city streets (Denver had to redo the timing onj all their downtown traffic signals to make it work) but moves more people.

            The larger discussion you touch on is whether a transit system is made up of discrete parts or if it’s an integrated whole?  Since moving to St. Louis, I’ve noticed that many people who ride Metrolink here simply won’t consider riding the bus, any bus.  In Denver, where I came from, there’s more of an integrated mindset, with free transfers between the various vehicles their system uses.  For regular users, the type of vehicle becomes secondary; it’s the schedules, frequent service and quick transfers that become the priority and the attraction.  For infrequent users, simplicity is the biggest priority.  And since infrequent riders are the swing voters that are critical to supporting local transit funding, meeting their needs is why there’s so much dicussion on where Metrolink needs to go next here.

            For transit to be better-loved here, we need to move beyond focusing on specific vehicle types and technologies and focusing more on designing a system that is well-integrated and attractive to non-transit-dependent riders, and a big part of that is making transfers work better.  We are way past downtown being the only destination, making the current hub-and-spoke route map obsolete for many potential users.  Metro has started to address this with their new transit centers, but we still need to convince a lot more people that the bus isn’t just for poor, carless people – we simply will never, ever have rail conveniently located for every user.  Yes, streetcars were and are well-loved, but buses remain the most cost-effective solution for many routes.  And in my “perfect world”, I’ll trade more-frequent bus service over less-frequent rail servcie any day!

             
          • JZ71 says:

            One last point – one big, fundamental difference between light rail and buses and streetcars is how stops are handled.  Typically, with light rail, the train stops at every station, while buses and streetcars typically only stop when someone requests that they stop.  So when light rail operates in mixed traffic in an urban environment, a very conscious decision needs to be made between the desire for local stops versus moving large numbers of people over longer distances.  My experience in Denver is that each added stop on a light rail line costs in excess of $2 million!

             
      • Sglanham says:

        Obviously, you haven’t visited UMSL North, Central Wet End or Hanley Road stations.  Express Scripts, Vatterott Trade school, North Park development, Medical Buildings around Barnes Hospital – all of this is worthwhile economic development around lightrail transportation.  Do you think lightrail was not a factor in the decision to locate businesses?

         
  5. Douglas Duckworth says:

    Light rail in St. Louis doesn’t have a record of promoting economic development in poor areas. Why would it be different on the North Side?

     
  6. Time will tell. If the new Loop trolley ends up creating a pseudo-hookup to the metro link and Washington/SLU area keep developing nicely it’s hard to see how metro won’t be the spine of a nice corridor running from Washington to SLU via Lindell and to the CW End/Forest Park/U City Area. And maybe one day to a redone arch grounds. 

     
  7. Time will tell. If the new Loop trolley ends up creating a pseudo-hookup to the metro link and Washington/SLU area keep developing nicely it’s hard to see how metro won’t be the spine of a nice corridor running from Washington to SLU via Lindell and to the CW End/Forest Park/U City Area. And maybe one day to a redone arch grounds. 

     
  8. Adam says:

    Wait… they don’t have a record because they haven’t yet built lines to serve the poor areas (i.e. north and parts of south), so why would it be different if they built a line to serve the poor areas? Um… it’s different because it would be the exact opposite of what they haven’t yet done.

     
  9. Justin Chick says:

    As much as a fan boy for transit as I am, I really had to look at this critically to the rider base which MetroLink vs MetroBus serves. No doubt they work in conjunction with each other however I’m coming to conclude that MetroBus is better able to serve the transit riding public of St. Louis. 

    Don’t get me wrong MetroLink can do a great deal of things which MetroBus cannot, but was the investment worth it? Where’s the return on investment? 

     
  10. Justin says:

    As much as a fan boy for transit as I am, I really had to look at this critically to the rider base which MetroLink vs MetroBus serves. No doubt they work in conjunction with each other however I’m coming to conclude that MetroBus is better able to serve the transit riding public of St. Louis. 

    Don’t get me wrong MetroLink can do a great deal of things which MetroBus cannot, but was the investment worth it? Where’s the return on investment? 

     
  11. Fenian says:

    How much is lost to forgone revenues? With no turnstiles and lax enforcement, we have no idea how many people ride for free on a daily basis. With any system there will be some freeriders, however, our system almost encourages non-payment. Furthermore, our policy of not ticketing non-paying juveniles also encourages non-payment.

    How can I accurately determine whether or not it is a good investment when the system is designed to leave money on the table?

    Investing in public transit is a good idea, but our system definitely needs an overhaul.

     
  12. Fenian says:

    How much is lost to forgone revenues? With no turnstiles and lax enforcement, we have no idea how many people ride for free on a daily basis. With any system there will be some freeriders, however, our system almost encourages non-payment. Furthermore, our policy of not ticketing non-paying juveniles also encourages non-payment.

    How can I accurately determine whether or not it is a good investment when the system is designed to leave money on the table?

    Investing in public transit is a good idea, but our system definitely needs an overhaul.

     
    • Wqcuncleden says:

      I ride the Metrolink daily and I really don’t think there are that many people riding for free.  Oh sure there are some I’m sure but you’d always have that.  If we had put in turnstiles when it was built some of the animals we have in this town would just crawl over them anyway.  There is no perfect system.

       
      • Fenian says:

        The problem is that we don’t know how many people ride for free. With no physical barriers and lax enforcement, I would argue that the system is flawed. There is obviously no perfect system, but Metro has dropped the ball in regard to ticket enforcement. There will always be people that cheat the system, however, our system seems to encourage it, especially among minors.

        I imagine we could agree that more enforcement would pay for itself in increased ticket sales and fines.

         
  13. the biggest problem with metrolink is that it’s just not a good set of public transportation. we don’t ride it because it’s expensive(far more so than many other cities primary modes of public transportation) crowded, and the waits are ridiculous, with no proper areas for sitting, and little shade.

     
  14. Jeff says:

    MetroLink is a good deal if it is available where you live and work.  If you live in South or West Saint Louis County you may use it occasionally, but not very often.  Perhaps it may eventually be extended, but with the economy today, probably not in the near future. If you consider the huge cost over-runs, the lawsuits and resulting awards, it is a toss up of costs vs benefits.  

     
  15. Jeff says:

    MetroLink is a good deal if it is available where you live and work.  If you live in South or West Saint Louis County you may use it occasionally, but not very often.  Perhaps it may eventually be extended, but with the economy today, probably not in the near future. If you consider the huge cost over-runs, the lawsuits and resulting awards, it is a toss up of costs vs benefits.  

     
    • ChrisY says:

      One way you can make it a good deal is by moving to where transit is, rather than living in the exurbs and waiting for it to show up at your doorstep.  Since I moved back to St. Louis, I’ve actively sought housing near major bus lines and, later, Metrolink.

       
      • Court S. says:

        ChrisY, I did the same thing, first in University City and later in Benton Park. If a highway is built and you want that convenience, you buy or rent near the road. The same is true for public transit, it’s a transportation investment that people can take advantage of.

         
      • Don Head says:

        Random thoughts from a non-native.

        I moved here in 12 years ago from the San Francisco Bay Area, where BART does (at least in my opinion) a pretty good job of working with the local transportation (bus) providers in offering a near-seamless end-to-end travel experience.  My little monthly pass got me a fixed pre-paid value of train rides, plus free rides on any area buses.  My commute was a little long (a little over an hour), but it was a simple and reliable door-to-bus-to-rail-to-bus-to-door commute that honestly couldn’t be beat, even with a car.

        My current employer (for the last 7+ years) is in Chesterfield, near one of the bus routes, but nowhere near a lightrail station.  I work odd hours, sometimes late into the evening/night.  I also have a family, and most of the extended family is in the West County area.  I’m not a fan of sitting in traffic for any length of time, and my body doesn’t take well to extreme heat.

        Based on my situation, the local buses do not work for me: they don’t run late into the night, and unless I happen to live very close to one of their fairly limited West County route options, I just can’t get there from here in a reasonable about of time.  Walking a long distance in the 100 degree heat doesn’t work either.  Therefore, I picked a residence fairly close to where I work, and I drive.

        Having lived in St. Louis, I’ve used the lightrail once, and only once.  A couple months back, I was given tickets to a Cardinals game, and my son and I drove to the nearest station, and went on our little lightrail adventure.  The trip to stadium was pleasant.  Since we started out at the end of the line, the train was nearly empty, and slowly filled as we got closer to downtown (almost entirely with people going to the game).  The trip back was more of a nightmare, waiting in a very long line for trains that didn’t quite seem to be running as often as they should have, considering the event.  I work in computers and the Internet, and the ability to dynamically scale your environment based on load is a very simple principle that, in today’s world, should be applied to mass transit.  Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, I don’t know.  But it didn’t appear to as though things were running any faster.  And appearance is everything.

        I want to take my kids to the Zoo, the Science Center, the Botanical Gardens, the Magic House, and various other destinations, as often as possible.  All of them are fairly inexpensive, and get the kids out of the house and educated.  We’ve learned over the years to travel light, usually just with a backpack of water and snacks.  I would love to take the lightrail to do so, but for any single parent that’s tried to manage a couple of small kids through bus transfers and extreme heat, you know what I’m dealing with.

        Will I ride the lightrail again?  Absolutely.

        Even with the hassle involved in the return trip from the Cardinals game, I still think it’s better than the alternative of $20 parking and a massive automobile traffic jam.  But I don’t go to Cardinals games often.

        I likely won’t use it for late-night bar-hopping or anything like that.  I’d still have to drive to a station in order to get downtown, which means I’d still have to “drive home” from wherever I got dropped off.

        Unfortunately, until the mass transit options improve in the West County area (light getting the lightrail extended a bit closer, something nearer to 40/270), it’s more of a hassle than it’s worth.

        Suggestions for the future?  I’d use these, if they were available:

        Riding the lightrail from Chesterfield to the airport.  I travel light, nothing I can’t carry/wheel.

        Riding the lightrail from Chesterfield to St. Charles.  I have a lot of friends there, and this would give me the opportunity to see them more.

        Riding the lightrail from Chesterfield to Six Flags.  As my kids get older, I know I’m going to be convinced that we need to go.  This makes it easier.

         
        • JZ71 says:

          The design of Metro’s light rail system makes it difficult to be “scalable” for special events, especially post-event.  Ideally, to move a large number of people, you need a large number of empty vehicles staged and ready to go.  Unfortunately, with our major venues located at the center of the system, combined with travel demand to both Missouri and Illinois, stations that can accomodate only two-car trains, a finite number of vehicles and operators and no nearby, offline staging areas, it’s physically impossible to ratchet up service to move 5, 10 or 20,000 people in half an hour or so.  The best answer is to either plan on leaving early or staying around for a beer or two afterwards . . .

           
          • Don Head says:

            Isn’t there a Metrolink facilitiy near the giant rail yards downtown, somewhere near the Amtrak station?  That’s pretty much the center of the system. =)

             
          • JZ71 says:

            Yes, and there’s another maintenance facility in Illinois.  But unlike computer memory, that’s seems to drop in price, by half, every year, a Metrolink vehicle costs $2 million and can carry 100 passengers in “crush” conditions.  So, every two-car train costs $4 million and can carriy 200 passengers.  Assuming you ran them every two minutes, both ways, for an hour after a game, that would require 120 vehicles and 60 operators and would be capable of moving 12,000 fans.  The problem is that Metro currently only has 87 light rail vehicles, so it would cost $80-$100 million just to buy the vehicles, plus Metro would need to train and hire 40-50 new part-time operators and build a new facility to store and service the added vehicles.  Is it possible?  Sure.  But like they said in the movie, “Show me the money!”

             
  16. Wqcuncleden says:

    I ride the Metrolink daily and I really don’t think there are that many people riding for free.  Oh sure there are some I’m sure but you’d always have that.  If we had put in turnstiles when it was built some of the animals we have in this town would just crawl over them anyway.  There is no perfect system.

     
  17. Catching says:

    Metrolink does it’s job: It’s a small light rail system built for generally low capacities. Nothing like a heavy rail system (See Chicago).

    The only thing it needs is an expansion to MidAmerica Airport. With access to the region, airlines just may relocate from Lambert to the nearly open and non-congested confines of MidAmerica, which is for all intents & purposes, completely disconnected from anything. It would be better for the region to decentralize our airline access and give folks more options.

     
  18. Catching says:

    Metrolink does it’s job: It’s a small light rail system built for generally low capacities. Nothing like a heavy rail system (See Chicago).

    The only thing it needs is an expansion to MidAmerica Airport. With access to the region, airlines just may relocate from Lambert to the nearly open and non-congested confines of MidAmerica, which is for all intents & purposes, completely disconnected from anything. It would be better for the region to decentralize our airline access and give folks more options.

     
    • PeterXCV says:

      I think that Metro’s next goal should be a north/south line, and if not that perhaps a westport line. Midamerica will not add that many riders, and considering how Lambert has emptied out over the last 10 years I don’t think congestion is really a problem. 

       
      • Court S. says:

        When it goes to light rail expansion or any major transportation infrastructure project, it’s not Metro’s call. It is the call of East-West Gateway, and be default, the regional elected officials. It’s important that people realize that Metro doesn’t choose the light rail routes or priorities, and that our elected officials really make the difference.

         
    • samizdat says:

      If anything, Lambert is significantly at over-capacity now. Not trashing MA, it simply wasn’t needed, even with the wildly fantastic traffic projections that Leonard Griggs used to justify the new runway at Lambert.

       
  19. Anonymous says:

    Wellston is not poor?!

    Light rail is not a silver bullet when it comes to development, it’s one part of a larger equation.  Light rail is, first and foremost, a part of a larger transportation system.

     
  20. Anonymous says:

    Metro was fortunate to build the first part when they did.  The 10% local match, consisting mostly of rights-of-way (back then), has morphed into the 30%+ cash match required these days, since more cities are competing for scarce federal funds.

    Whether or not it’s been a “good investment” depends largely on how often, if at all, one uses it.  And the ability to use existing heavy-rail rights-of-way is actually a mixed blessing – it worked great for the Eads bridge and the downtown tunnels, but it also resulted in stations like Grand Avenue, Wellston and Rock Road that are in heavily-industrialized areas that haven’t seen any real TOD activity.

    The real determinent in whether or not a transit investment is a “success” is the number of daily commuters it attracts.  Unfortunately, many of St. Louis’ biggest private employers are, or have chosen to be, in areas that are not served by Metrolink.  The biggest exceptions are Barnes/BJC, Wash. U. and Express Scripts.

    The other two big determinents are highway congestion and the availability and the cost of parking at work or at school – the pain-in-the-a** factor.  In reality, the vast majority of commutes by private vehciles in St. Louis simply aren’t that bad, or not bad enough for most people to consider public transit, of any type.

    One reason why the El in Chicago works so well is that many of its stations are in the heart of neighborhoods, not stuck between a railyard and freeway and under a viduct, like the Grand Avenue Station is.  If light rail had been run up Market and Lindell, instead of down a rail line, there’d be a lot more incentive to try TOD.

     
  21. JZ71 says:

    Metro was fortunate to build the first part when they did.  The 10% local match, consisting mostly of rights-of-way (back then), has morphed into the 30%+ cash match required these days, since more cities are competing for scarce federal funds.

    Whether or not it’s been a “good investment” depends largely on how often, if at all, one uses it.  And the ability to use existing heavy-rail rights-of-way is actually a mixed blessing – it worked great for the Eads bridge and the downtown tunnels, but it also resulted in stations like Grand Avenue, Wellston and Rock Road that are in heavily-industrialized areas that haven’t seen any real TOD activity.

    The real determinent in whether or not a transit investment is a “success” is the number of daily commuters it attracts.  Unfortunately, many of St. Louis’ biggest private employers are, or have chosen to be, in areas that are not served by Metrolink.  The biggest exceptions are Barnes/BJC, Wash. U. and Express Scripts.

    The other two big determinents are highway congestion and the availability and the cost of parking at work or at school – the pain-in-the-a** factor.  In reality, the vast majority of commutes by private vehciles in St. Louis simply aren’t that bad, or not bad enough for most people to consider public transit, of any type.

    One reason why the El in Chicago works so well is that many of its stations are in the heart of neighborhoods, not stuck between a railyard and freeway and under a viduct, like the Grand Avenue Station is.  If light rail had been run up Market and Lindell, instead of down a rail line, there’d be a lot more incentive to try TOD.

     
  22. ChrisY says:

    One way you can make it a good deal is by moving to where transit is, rather than living in the exurbs and waiting for it to show up at your doorstep.  Since I moved back to St. Louis, I’ve actively sought housing near major bus lines and, later, Metrolink.

     
  23. PeterXCV says:

    I think that Metro’s next goal should be a north/south line, and if not that perhaps a westport line. Midamerica will not add that many riders, and considering how Lambert has emptied out over the last 10 years I don’t think congestion is really a problem. 

     
  24. samizdat says:

    If anything, Lambert is significantly at over-capacity now. Not trashing MA, it simply wasn’t needed, even with the wildly fantastic traffic projections that Leonard Griggs used to justify the new runway at Lambert.

     
  25. Court S. says:

    When it goes to light rail expansion or any major transportation infrastructure project, it’s not Metro’s call. It is the call of East-West Gateway, and be default, the regional elected officials. It’s important that people realize that Metro doesn’t choose the light rail routes or priorities, and that our elected officials really make the difference.

     
  26. Court S. says:

    ChrisY, I did the same thing, first in University City and later in Benton Park. If a highway is built and you want that convenience, you buy or rent near the road. The same is true for public transit, it’s a transportation investment that people can take advantage of.

     
  27. As a daily rider of Metrolink and bus, I’d yes. But the concept of rail transport needs to be developed and expanded, and should include north-south lines.  Why not loop the blue line from Shrewsbury down to Carondolet, back up Gravois all the way to downtown, as an example?

    And to those folks who don’t regularly use it to go to the airport — why not? 

     
  28. Mark Beïrn says:

    As a daily rider of Metrolink and bus, I’d yes. But the concept of rail transport needs to be developed and expanded, and should include north-south lines.  Why not loop the blue line from Shrewsbury down to Carondolet, back up Gravois all the way to downtown, as an example?

    And to those folks who don’t regularly use it to go to the airport — why not? 

     
    • JZ71 says:

      Reason one – we don’t work at the airport, we only use the airport once or twice a year.

      Reason two – when we fly, we have too much luggage and/or too many kids to handle on Metrolink.

      Reason three – the few Metrolink stations that allow overnight parking aren’t convenient and we sure aren’t going to use a bus to get to the train.

      Reason four – time – we don’t like waiting to change between the Red and Blue lines / no direct service.

      Reason five – we don’t feel safe waiting on the platform with our luggage and we don’t feel safe leaving our car in the Metrolink lot.

       
      • I always know you’ll provide reasonable sounding excuses for people to maintain the status quo. Too much luggage? It’s probably been a while since you’ve flown. With security and baggage fees people don’t have that much luggage. Kids use transit, good for them, especially when traveling. I’ve asked friends to drop me off at MetroLink stations so I can get to the airport. I’ve also taken a bus to a station to catch the train to the airport, with my luggage. The platforms are safe, just ask the security guard and he/she will tell you as much.

         
        • JZ71 says:

          Hey, Mark was asking what the excuses were/are – doesn’t mean I agree with ’em!  I/we actually use Metrolink for most of our trips.  Metro needs to address these excuses if it wants to attract more local riders to its airport service . . .

           
  29. Boomer says:

    I like how the comments on here are completely different than the comments that
    would appear if this question was posted on stltoday.com.

     
  30. Boomer says:

    I like how the comments on here are completely different than the comments that
    would appear if this question was posted on stltoday.com.

     
  31. metrolink is not truly light rail either, especially along the red line in north county.

    tell me what metro has in common with this example of true light rail in portland? other than being a train on a rail, nothing really.
    http://media.247sports.com/Uploads/Boards/661/6661/53163.jpg

    if metrolink really wants to spur development it needs to move on streets. right now it is more light a train, commuter or long distance whatever (especially going through the golf course and cemetery in north county, feels like a cross country trip). To spur development, needs to be more like a streetcar. Especially feel this where from Civic Center to Union Station, the metro trench combined cuts segments the area leaving a desert of sidewalk and parking lots in front of Scottrade.

     
  32. Definitely a worthwhile investment. But as most things in Saint Louis, there aren’t enough people involved with the right energy/vision/knowledge/investment in place with Metro to optimize its potential.

    As a regular, sometimes daily rider here are my complaints for Metro:

    – standard ticket rates, there should be flexible ticket rates. example: up the price a little bit for cards games, decrease the price at off peak hours. encourages more riders throughout the day, metro looks damned pathetic at night.

    – if you’re gonna send bikers to the back of a train, make it bike friendly. take out some seats, put in a bike rack with one long bench for riders

    – just as with busses there should be train trackers, even if at this point something as simple as a 5 minute arrival warning (on blue and red line stations it would tell which is coming next). how long does one have to stand at a station worrying if their train is ever gonna show? its a miserable feeling, especially when you’re late.

    – if no1 wants to pay for advertising offer free spots for PSAs (at the expense of the organizations) (i’m sick of seeing metro ads plastered everywhere on metro)

    – install turnstiles!! I know that tens of times that friends and I, granted in our youth, rode metro without paying or paying for children tickets. a turnstile does what a rent a cop cant, keeps people out! in the current system no-one knows if you’re riding for free, if u had to jump a turnstile i think that would stop 95% of offenders- everyone would know what your doing.
    *and the argument that turnstiles are too expensive is stupid, how much money have we spent on the system?

    – improve shade on stations, it seems like the roofs over the benches are always covering the wrong side.

    i have a bunch more complaints/improvement ideas but these are all very basic and easy to implement. the biggest thing holding back metro is its terrible perception in saint louis!! if people see improvements, even little ones each time they ride the perception would be much better. and im sure ridership would follow

     
  33. Definitely a worthwhile investment. But as most things in Saint Louis, there aren’t enough people involved with the right energy/vision/knowledge/investment in place with Metro to optimize its potential.

    As a regular, sometimes daily rider here are my complaints for Metro:

    – standard ticket rates, there should be flexible ticket rates. example: up the price a little bit for cards games, decrease the price at off peak hours. encourages more riders throughout the day, metro looks damned pathetic at night.

    – if you’re gonna send bikers to the back of a train, make it bike friendly. take out some seats, put in a bike rack with one long bench for riders

    – just as with busses there should be train trackers, even if at this point something as simple as a 5 minute arrival warning (on blue and red line stations it would tell which is coming next). how long does one have to stand at a station worrying if their train is ever gonna show? its a miserable feeling, especially when you’re late.

    – if no1 wants to pay for advertising offer free spots for PSAs (at the expense of the organizations) (i’m sick of seeing metro ads plastered everywhere on metro)

    – install turnstiles!! I know that tens of times that friends and I, granted in our youth, rode metro without paying or paying for children tickets. a turnstile does what a rent a cop cant, keeps people out! in the current system no-one knows if you’re riding for free, if u had to jump a turnstile i think that would stop 95% of offenders- everyone would know what your doing.
    *and the argument that turnstiles are too expensive is stupid, how much money have we spent on the system?

    – improve shade on stations, it seems like the roofs over the benches are always covering the wrong side.

    i have a bunch more complaints/improvement ideas but these are all very basic and easy to implement. the biggest thing holding back metro is its terrible perception in saint louis!! if people see improvements, even little ones each time they ride the perception would be much better. and im sure ridership would follow

     
    • Will Fru says:

      I believe the “argument that turnstiles are too expensive” refers to their actually costing more to implement and maintain than the estimated loss of revenue from people dodging fares.  

       
      • JZ71 says:

        Turnstiles / closed platforms require full-time staffing to monitor the turnstiles, in Metro’s case, 20 hours a day.  Realistically, that means a minimum of two people at all times, and more during busier times and at stations with more than one access point.  Do the math – 20 hours x 7 days = 140 hours.  That’s a minimum of four full-time employees (including sick time and vacation time) per station, and up to 16 employees at some downtown stations!  Multiply that by the 37 stations Metrolink currently operates and you’re looking at probably a minimum of 250, mostly new, employees dedicated to fare enforcement.  And assuming that they’d make $11-$12 per hour, plus benefits, that’s in excess of $10 million in annual expenditures.  The question then becomes, would Metro actually be able capture in excess of $10 miillion in currently-evaded fares?  Or, does the current “honor” system actually offer a better cost/benefit analysis?

         
    • Julie says:

      Metro doesn’t need to add turnstiles until they fix the syncing problem of transferring from bus to train. As it stands, the bus I take arrives often with less than 30 seconds to get from the back of the bus lot to the Westbound train. In the rare case that one had 1 or 2 minutes, a turnstile would only make it further impossible to get to the train. And with STL weather always in the extreme, a 20 minute wait with inadequate seating is miserable.

      In other words, turnstiles would only make things more rough for regular riders. And quite honestly, Metro needs to cater to those regular riders over those who only use it occasionally for a ball game or something.

       
  34. Anonymous says:

    Reason one – we don’t work at the airport, we only use the airport once or twice a year.

    Reason two – when we fly, we have too much luggage and/or too many kids to handle on Metrolink.

    Reason three – the few Metrolink stations that allow overnight parking aren’t convenient and we sure aren’t going to use a bus to get to the train.

    Reason four – time – we don’t like waiting to change between the Red and Blue lines / no direct service.

    Reason five – we don’t feel safe waiting on the platform with our luggage and we don’t feel safe leaving our car in the Metrolink lot.

     
  35. I always know you’ll provide reasonable sounding excuses for people to maintain the status quo. Too much luggage? It’s probably been a while since you’ve flown. With security and baggage fees people don’t have that much luggage. Kids use transit, good for them, especially when traveling. I’ve asked friends to drop me off at MetroLink stations so I can get to the airport. I’ve also taken a bus to a station to catch the train to the airport, with my luggage. The platforms are safe, just ask the security guard and he/she will tell you as much.

     
  36. Anonymous says:

    Actually, both systems are light rail – light rail refers to the vehicles and the rail they use, which is lighter than the rail freight rails use (and heavier than streetcars’).  The only difference between Portland and here is that we use high-floor vehicles while they use low-floor ones.  How the system is designed is a separate issue.  Light rail can operate on both city streets and on dedicated rights-of-way.  Light rail can also operate multiple-vehicle consists.  St. Louis is limited to the current two-vehicle consists solely because of the existing platform lengths at our stations, especially downtown.  Other properties (San Diego and Denver, to name two) operate consists of up to four vehicles, which gets to be problematic on city streets (Denver had to redo the timing onj all their downtown traffic signals to make it work) but moves more people.

    The larger discussion you touch on is whether a transit system is made up of discrete parts or if it’s an integrated whole?  Since moving to St. Louis, I’ve noticed that many people who ride Metrolink here simply won’t consider riding the bus, any bus.  In Denver, where I came from, there’s more of an integrated mindset, with free transfers between the various vehicles their system uses.  For regular users, the type of vehicle becomes secondary; it’s the schedules, frequent service and quick transfers that become the priority and the attraction.  For infrequent users, simplicity is the biggest priority.  And since infrequent riders are the swing voters that are critical to supporting local transit funding, meeting their needs is why there’s so much dicussion on where Metrolink needs to go next here.

    For transit to be better-loved here, we need to move beyond focusing on specific vehicle types and technologies and focusing more on designing a system that is well-integrated and attractive to non-transit-dependent riders, and a big part of that is making transfers work better.  We are way past downtown being the only destination, making the current hub-and-spoke route map obsolete for many potential users.  Metro has started to address this with their new transit centers, but we still need to convince a lot more people that the bus isn’t just for poor, carless people – we simply will never, ever have rail conveniently located for every user.  Yes, streetcars were and are well-loved, but buses remain the most cost-effective solution for many routes.  And in my “perfect world”, I’ll trade more-frequent bus service over less-frequent rail servcie any day!

     
  37. Fenian says:

    The problem is that we don’t know how many people ride for free. With no physical barriers and lax enforcement, I would argue that the system is flawed. There is obviously no perfect system, but Metro has dropped the ball in regard to ticket enforcement. There will always be people that cheat the system, however, our system seems to encourage it, especially among minors.

    I imagine we could agree that more enforcement would pay for itself in increased ticket sales and fines.

     
  38. Stlplanr says:

    Build Northside-Southside between UMSL and Carondelet (don’t use I-55 south of Chippewa) as a “rapid streetcar” with modern vehicles for a third of the estimated cost of MetroLink.

    Extend MetroLink within the County with the condition of TOD around stations.  Perhaps, station-area TIF districts could even help offset the project’s costs.

     
  39. Stlplanr says:

    Build Northside-Southside between UMSL and Carondelet (don’t use I-55 south of Chippewa) as a “rapid streetcar” with modern vehicles for a third of the estimated cost of MetroLink.

    Extend MetroLink within the County with the condition of TOD around stations.  Perhaps, station-area TIF districts could even help offset the project’s costs.

     
  40. JZ71 says:

    Hey, Mark was asking what the excuses were/are – doesn’t mean I agree with ’em!  I/we actually use Metrolink for most of our trips.  Metro needs to address these excuses if it wants to attract more local riders to its airport service . . .

     
  41. Will Fru says:

    I believe the “argument that turnstiles are too expensive” refers to their actually costing more to implement and maintain than the estimated loss of revenue from people dodging fares.  

     
  42. s-bar-f says:

    The light rail doesnt have enough lines.    We had the trolly cars, my father used to hop on them to go everywhere.  thanks ford for ruining america….

     
  43. s-bar-f says:

    The light rail doesnt have enough lines.    We had the trolly cars, my father used to hop on them to go everywhere.  thanks ford for ruining america….

     
  44. Anonymous says:

    Turnstiles / closed platforms require full-time staffing to monitor the turnstiles, in Metro’s case, 20 hours a day.  Realistically, that means a minimum of two people at all times, and more during busier times and at stations with more than one access point.  Do the math – 20 hours x 7 days = 140 hours.  That’s a minimum of four full-time employees (including sick time and vacation time) per station, and up to 16 employees at some downtown stations!  Multiply that by the 37 stations Metrolink currently operates and you’re looking at probably a minimum of 250, mostly new, employees dedicated to fare enforcement.  And assuming that they’d make $11-$12 per hour, plus benefits, that’s in excess of $10 million in annual expenditures.  The question then becomes, would Metro actually be able capture in excess of $10 miillion in currently-evaded fares?  Or, does the current “honor” system actually offer a better cost/benefit analysis?

     
  45. Anonymous says:

    One last point – one big, fundamental difference between light rail and buses and streetcars is how stops are handled.  Typically, with light rail, the train stops at every station, while buses and streetcars typically only stop when someone requests that they stop.  So when light rail operates in mixed traffic in an urban environment, a very conscious decision needs to be made between the desire for local stops versus moving large numbers of people over longer distances.  My experience in Denver is that each added stop on a light rail line costs in excess of $2 million!

     
  46. Brian S. says:

    I don’t own a car in Chicago, and when I move back here to STL, I’d like to at least try to avoid buying one.  But what really ticks me off is that Shrewsbury blocked the inner belt expanding south, but they get this whole nice Metrolink complex.  I had heard of a great South City line years ago, then all the sudden there is this suburban line to Shrewsbury

     
  47. Brian S. says:

    I don’t own a car in Chicago, and when I move back here to STL, I’d like to at least try to avoid buying one.  But what really ticks me off is that Shrewsbury blocked the inner belt expanding south, but they get this whole nice Metrolink complex.  I had heard of a great South City line years ago, then all the sudden there is this suburban line to Shrewsbury

     
    • JZ71 says:

      Shrewsbury didn’t block the Inner Belt, Brentwood, Richmond Heights and Webster Groves did.  And the Shrewsbury Station is actually located mostly in the city, not in Shrewsbury.  And see what Court said up higher in the discussion – politics drives these decisions!

       
  48. Anonymous says:

    Shrewsbury didn’t block the Inner Belt, Brentwood, Richmond Heights and Webster Groves did.  And the Shrewsbury Station is actually located mostly in the city, not in Shrewsbury.  And see what Court said up higher in the discussion – politics drives these decisions!

     
  49. Sglanham says:

    Obviously, you haven’t visited UMSL North, Central Wet End or Hanley Road stations.  Express Scripts, Vatterott Trade school, North Park development, Medical Buildings around Barnes Hospital – all of this is worthwhile economic development around lightrail transportation.  Do you think lightrail was not a factor in the decision to locate businesses?

     
  50. This was and is still one of the greatest urban renewal projects in St. Louis. I for one use it daily to get to work and meet up with friends. It has been very good to the city for bringing back county dwellers and offering what most major cities had decades earlier. I think it gives more than just the cost of transit to saint louis face. Thanks for bringing up its birthday. I think I will write somthing about it on my blog or maybe do a sweet illustration to show my love. http://www.creativeautomaton.com

     
  51. Julie says:

    It enables me to get to school, work, and social activities so yes it was a good investment. Sure its not as good as Portland’s Max system but at least we have something which is more than Kansas City can say.

    If we didn’t have the train it would take 3 buses rather than 1 bus and a train to get to school. The more connections you have to make the more likely you’ll miss one because Metro is really bad at planning trains and buses together.

    Sure, the system could be better but its a catch 22. Metro refuses to fix the inherent problems such as time tables, seating and comfort, and so on simply because the ridership isn’t higher. People refuse to ride it simple because of the problems I just mentioned. Someone has to go first (preferably Metro).

    If anything our train system is far better than our bus system which is something left to be desired. As it stands, because they don’t run my bus on Sunday, I am stuck walking for 20 minutes to the nearest bus so that I can catch the train to work.

    So you want to talk about investment? How about fixing our bus system instead.

     
  52. Julie says:

    It enables me to get to school, work, and social activities so yes it was a good investment. Sure its not as good as Portland’s Max system but at least we have something which is more than Kansas City can say.

    If we didn’t have the train it would take 3 buses rather than 1 bus and a train to get to school. The more connections you have to make the more likely you’ll miss one because Metro is really bad at planning trains and buses together.

    Sure, the system could be better but its a catch 22. Metro refuses to fix the inherent problems such as time tables, seating and comfort, and so on simply because the ridership isn’t higher. People refuse to ride it simple because of the problems I just mentioned. Someone has to go first (preferably Metro).

    If anything our train system is far better than our bus system which is something left to be desired. As it stands, because they don’t run my bus on Sunday, I am stuck walking for 20 minutes to the nearest bus so that I can catch the train to work.

    So you want to talk about investment? How about fixing our bus system instead.

     
  53. Julie says:

    Metro doesn’t need to add turnstiles until they fix the syncing problem of transferring from bus to train. As it stands, the bus I take arrives often with less than 30 seconds to get from the back of the bus lot to the Westbound train. In the rare case that one had 1 or 2 minutes, a turnstile would only make it further impossible to get to the train. And with STL weather always in the extreme, a 20 minute wait with inadequate seating is miserable.

    In other words, turnstiles would only make things more rough for regular riders. And quite honestly, Metro needs to cater to those regular riders over those who only use it occasionally for a ball game or something.

     
  54. Don Head says:

    Random thoughts from a non-native.

    I moved here in 12 years ago from the San Francisco Bay Area, where BART does (at least in my opinion) a pretty good job of working with the local transportation (bus) providers in offering a near-seamless end-to-end travel experience.  My little monthly pass got me a fixed pre-paid value of train rides, plus free rides on any area buses.  My commute was a little long (a little over an hour), but it was a simple and reliable door-to-bus-to-rail-to-bus-to-door commute that honestly couldn’t be beat, even with a car.

    My current employer (for the last 7+ years) is in Chesterfield, near one of the bus routes, but nowhere near a lightrail station.  I work odd hours, sometimes late into the evening/night.  I also have a family, and most of the extended family is in the West County area.  I’m not a fan of sitting in traffic for any length of time, and my body doesn’t take well to extreme heat.

    Based on my situation, the local buses do not work for me: they don’t run late into the night, and unless I happen to live very close to one of their fairly limited West County route options, I just can’t get there from here in a reasonable about of time.  Walking a long distance in the 100 degree heat doesn’t work either.  Therefore, I picked a residence fairly close to where I work, and I drive.

    Having lived in St. Louis, I’ve used the lightrail once, and only once.  A couple months back, I was given tickets to a Cardinals game, and my son and I drove to the nearest station, and went on our little lightrail adventure.  The trip to stadium was pleasant.  Since we started out at the end of the line, the train was nearly empty, and slowly filled as we got closer to downtown (almost entirely with people going to the game).  The trip back was more of a nightmare, waiting in a very long line for trains that didn’t quite seem to be running as often as they should have, considering the event.  I work in computers and the Internet, and the ability to dynamically scale your environment based on load is a very simple principle that, in today’s world, should be applied to mass transit.  Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t, I don’t know.  But it didn’t appear to as though things were running any faster.  And appearance is everything.

    I want to take my kids to the Zoo, the Science Center, the Botanical Gardens, the Magic House, and various other destinations, as often as possible.  All of them are fairly inexpensive, and get the kids out of the house and educated.  We’ve learned over the years to travel light, usually just with a backpack of water and snacks.  I would love to take the lightrail to do so, but for any single parent that’s tried to manage a couple of small kids through bus transfers and extreme heat, you know what I’m dealing with.

    Will I ride the lightrail again?  Absolutely.

    Even with the hassle involved in the return trip from the Cardinals game, I still think it’s better than the alternative of $20 parking and a massive automobile traffic jam.  But I don’t go to Cardinals games often.

    I likely won’t use it for late-night bar-hopping or anything like that.  I’d still have to drive to a station in order to get downtown, which means I’d still have to “drive home” from wherever I got dropped off.

    Unfortunately, until the mass transit options improve in the West County area (light getting the lightrail extended a bit closer, something nearer to 40/270), it’s more of a hassle than it’s worth.

    Suggestions for the future?  I’d use these, if they were available:

    Riding the lightrail from Chesterfield to the airport.  I travel light, nothing I can’t carry/wheel.

    Riding the lightrail from Chesterfield to St. Charles.  I have a lot of friends there, and this would give me the opportunity to see them more.

    Riding the lightrail from Chesterfield to Six Flags.  As my kids get older, I know I’m going to be convinced that we need to go.  This makes it easier.

     
  55. Anonymous says:

    The design of Metro’s light rail system makes it difficult to be “scalable” for special events, especially post-event.  Ideally, to move a large number of people, you need a large number of empty vehicles staged and ready to go.  Unfortunately, with our major venues located at the center of the system, combined with travel demand to both Missouri and Illinois, stations that can accomodate only two-car trains, a finite number of vehicles and operators and no nearby, offline staging areas, it’s physically impossible to ratchet up service to move 5, 10 or 20,000 people in half an hour or so.  The best answer is to either plan on leaving early or staying around for a beer or two afterwards . . .

     
  56. Don Head says:

    Isn’t there a Metrolink facilitiy near the giant rail yards downtown, somewhere near the Amtrak station?  That’s pretty much the center of the system. =)

     
  57. Anonymous says:

    Yes, and there’s another maintenance facility in Illinois.  But unlike computer memory, that’s seems to drop in price, by half, every year, a Metrolink vehicle costs $2 million and can carry 100 passengers in “crush” conditions.  So, every two-car train costs $4 million and can carriy 200 passengers.  Assuming you ran them every two minutes, both ways, for an hour after a game, that would require 120 vehicles and 60 operators and would be capable of moving 12,000 fans.  The problem is that Metro currently only has 87 light rail vehicles, so it would cost $80-$100 million just to buy the vehicles, plus Metro would need to train and hire 40-50 new part-time operators and build a new facility to store and service the added vehicles.  Is it possible?  Sure.  But like they said in the movie, “Show me the money!”

     
  58. Jason Merkel says:

    hear hear julie that’s is one of metro’s biggest flaws no ability to connect smoothly from bus to bus and bus to train. 

     

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